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Juarez v. Autozone Stores

February 5, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara L. Major United States Magistrate Judge


On February 4, 2009, Plaintiff Rosario Juarez and Defendant Autozone Stores, Inc. filed a joint motion to continue the Settlement Conference scheduled for February 10, 2009. Doc. No. 35. In support of their request, the parties state that Plaintiff intends to file an amended complaint and that the parties anticipate conducting additional discovery. Id. While the Court accepts the parties' representation that they are not ready to discuss settlement, the Court notes that the deadline for amending the complaint passed many months ago (doc. no. 15) and that the deadline for completing discovery is February 12, 2009 (doc. no. 30). As a result, the parties cannot amend the complaint and conduct new discovery without establishing good cause in a written motion and obtaining a judge's consent. See, e.g., Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4). Accordingly, the Court does not consider or address the stated reasons for the parties' unwillingness to engage in settlement discussions at this time. Based solely on the parties' representation that they currently are not ready to engage in settlement discussions, the Court GRANTS the parties' joint motion and continues the Settlement Conference to May 18, 2009 at 9:30 a.m..

All discussions at the Settlement Conference will be informal, off the record, privileged, and confidential. Counsel for any non-English speaking party is responsible for arranging for the appearance of an interpreter at the conference.

1. Personal Appearance of Parties Required: All parties, adjusters for insured defendants, and other representatives of a party having full and complete authority to enter into a binding settlement, as well as the principal attorneys responsible for the litigation, must be present in person and legally and factually prepared to discuss settlement of the case. Counsel appearing without their clients (whether or not counsel has been given settlement authority) will be cause for immediate imposition of sanctions and may also result in the immediate termination of the conference.

Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, persons required to attend the conference pursuant to this Order shall not be excused from personal attendance. Requests for excuse from attendance for extraordinary circumstances shall be made in writing at least three (3) court days prior to the conference. Failure to appear in person at the Settlement Conference will be grounds for sanctions.

2. Full Settlement Authority Required: In addition to counsel who will try the case, a party or party representative with full settlement authority*fn1 must be present for the conference. In the case of a corporate entity, an authorized representative of the corporation who is not retained outside counsel must be present and must have discretionary authority to commit the company to pay an amount up to the amount of Plaintiff's prayer (excluding punitive damages prayers). The purpose of this requirement is to have representatives present who can settle the case during the course of the conference without consulting a superior. Counsel for a government entity may be excused from this requirement so long as the government attorney who attends the Settlement Conference (1) has primary responsibility for handling the case, and (2) may negotiate settlement offers which the attorney is willing to recommend to the government official having ultimate settlement authority.

3. Confidential Settlement Statements Required: No later than May 11, 2009, the parties shall submit directly to Magistrate Judge Major's chambers confidential settlement statements no more than five (5) pages in length. These confidential statements shall not be filed or served on opposing counsel. Each party's confidential statement must include the following:

(a) A brief description of the case, the claims and/or counterclaims asserted, and the applicable defenses or position regarding the asserted claims;

(b) A specific and current demand or offer for settlement addressing all relief or remedies sought. If a specific demand or offer for settlement cannot be made at the time the brief is submitted, then the reasons therefore must be stated along with a statement as to when the party will be in a position to state a demand or make an offer; and

(c) A brief description of any previous settlement negotiations, mediation sessions, or mediation efforts.

General statements that a party will "negotiate in good faith" is not a specific demand or offer contemplated by this Order. It is assumed that all parties will negotiate in good faith.

4. Requests to Continue a Settlement Conference: Any request to continue the Settlement Conference or request for relief from any of the provisions or requirements of this Order must be sought by a written ex parte application. The application must (1) be supported by a declaration of counsel setting forth the reasons and justifications for the relief requested, (2) confirm compliance with Civil Local Rule 26.1, and (3) report the position of opposing counsel or any unrepresented parties subject to the Order. Absent extraordinary circumstances, requests for continuances will not be considered unless submitted in writing no less than seven (7) days prior to the scheduled conference.

If the case is settled in its entirety before the scheduled date of the conference, counsel and any unrepresented parties must still appear in person, unless a written joint notice confirming the complete settlement of the case is filed no ...

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